BURLEY, Walter (ca. 1275-ca. 1345). Expositio in artem veterem Porphyrii et Aristotelis [with complete text]. Venice: Johann Herbort, de Seligenstadt, 10 December 1481.
Super-chancery 2o (314 x 211 mm). Collation: a-n8 o-p6 q4 (a1 blank, a2r text, q3v colophon and register, q4 blank). 120 leaves. 56 lines, double column. Types: 9:140G (first line of text on a2r), 8:109G (text), 7:79G (commentary). Spaces for initials. FINELY ILLUMINATED BY A CONTEMPORARY VENETIAN ARTIST FOR A MEMBER OF THE PESARO FAMILY OF VENICE: first page with three-quarter border of flowering vines in red, blue and green with gold bezants and filigree tracery, incorporating a 9-line floriated initial Q in colors on a gold ground and the Pesaro arms within a wreath at bottom, 5 similar 8-, 5- or 4-line initials in gold on colored grounds with marginal extensions. 2-line Lombard initials supplied in alternating red and blue. (Marginal worming to first and last few leaves, small burnhole at top of first 2 leaves affecting illuminated border, occasional light dampstaining to upper margins, ink splashes to b2r.)
Binding: contemporary Italian brown blind-tooled goatskin over thin wooden boards, covers decorated to a geometrical design with border of linked round foliate tools, each side of border with a central rectangle filled with small hatch tools forming a strapwork design or small repeated Greek crosses, the border framing strapwork cornerpieces and two half circles of small linked tools, centerpiece of a circle within a square, the circle composed of repeated crosses and inset with a large cross formed of curved tools forming a plaited effect on the front cover, and of repeated small crosses on the back cover, the square embellished with tiny dot and shell tools, evidence of 5 bosses and 4 clasps, 7 star-patterned nails and one plain nail preserved, later manuscript paper title label on upper cover, edges stained red at an early date (binding very worn, most of spine gone showing the three double tawed skin cords), but entirely unrestored; modern folding cloth box.
Provenance: contemporary marginal annotations and notes on front flyleaf, paragraph marks and headlines in pink and brown ink -- Robert Honeyman IV (sale, Sotheby's London, Part I, 30 October 1978, lot 553).
Third edition, the first with text and commentary combined, of Burley's commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge, Aristotle's Praedicamenta [Categories] and De interpretatione, these texts in Boethius' Latin translation, and on the Liber sex principiorum traditionally attributed to Gilbert de la Porrée (now considered spurious). In the medieval tradition this group of texts on logic were included as integral parts of the Ars vetus and the Organon. Many manuscripts survive of Burley's vast oeuvre, almost entirely devoted to logic and philosophy. "He was... an Aristotelian commentator with a vengeance, composing two--sometimes three--different versions of a commentary on a single work" (DSB). Eight 15th-century editions of this commentary are recorded.
This was the first book printed at Herbort of Seligenstadt's second press. Johannes Herbort began his printing career in Padua, where he produced about a dozen books between 1475 and 1480. In 1480 he was hired as printer for the newly created Venetian syndicate of Johannes de Colonia and Nicolaus Jenson and Company through November 1481. Less than a month after completing the Duns Scotus for the firm on 14 November 1481, he published the present edition on his own account and using his own typographic material, possibly with the financial support of the innkeeper Peter Ugelheimer [or Uglnheimer], a backer of the Jenson syndicate and a major investor in the Venetian printing industry (Hobson, Humanists and Bookbinders, p. 51). Herbort's Venetian press quickly became one of the largest printing establishments of the period; it closed in 1485 following his death in late 1484.
The unusual design of this binding appears to derive directly from North African Islamic models. The use of repeated small Greek crosses, uncommon on Italian bindings of this period, is found on a few examples of fifteenth-century Egyptian or Maghreb Islamic bindings (e.g., Duncan Haldane, Islamic Bookbindings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1983, no. 66, a 15th-century binding uncertainly attributed to North Africa/Spain/Egypt). The center- and cornerpiece design, itself of Islamic origin, is in this form -- with its round centerpiece ornament and rudimentary triangular cornerpieces -- characteristic of North African and Arabian Islamic bindings of the 13th-15th centuries. Also derivative of Islamic models are the small "flecks," repeated small straight tools employed as decorative projections from the centerpieces or cornerpieces, here embellishing the half-circles at top and bottom (cf. P. Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings, New York and London, 1979, p. 69, and Haldane, nos. 59, 61, 65, 69). The binding is likely to have been produced in Venice. The front pastedown endpaper has a typically Venetian bull's head watermark bearing a cross terminating in a Greek cross, and the lower pastedown a cross-bow within circle, an unlocalised Italian mark.
RARE, only one copy recorded in an American institution (Walters Art Gallery). HC 4128*; BMC V, 303 (IB. 21550); BSB-Ink B-1002; GW 5767; IGI 2259; Pr 4685; Goff B-1308.